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Top criminal chambers boosts pupillage award from £16k to £40k

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London set bucks downward pay trend

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A London-based criminal chambers has upped its pay by more than double.

High end criminal set 6KBW College Hill has increased its pupillage award from £16,000 to a staggering £40,000 — an increase of 150%.

For the first six months, the lucky pupil will be given a grant of £20,000. In the second six months, he or she will have a guaranteed minimum income of £20,000. Pupils can also expect to earn around £8,000 in excess of this.

With many pupillage awards at publicly funded sets languishing at the minimum of £12,000, it’s unusual for a criminal set to up its pay so drastically. Public perceptions of the criminal bar have taken a nosedive in the wake of intense public sector cuts, with the viability of a career as a criminal barrister thrown into doubt.

Indeed, a host of publicly funded sets have scaled back their pupillages — or ditched them altogether. Meanwhile, baby criminal barristers are increasingly feeling the squeeze as they struggle to scrape by on earnings not far off the minimum wage, and in some cases below it.

6KBW is, however, hardly a standard criminal set. Drawing in the cream of the criminal work — which is often corporate crime — barristers and pupils also take on extradition, public law, and civil law cases.

The set’s pupillage award increase echoes a wider picture of small, exclusively criminal sets struggling to make ends meet, while other more varied sets with a high proportion of silks thrive. 13 of 6KBW’s 46 barristers, it is worth noting, are QCs.

In a statement, 6KBW said:

We are delighted to announce that, following a review, the pupillage award at 6KBW College Hill for 2017 will increase to £40,000. Funding will consist of a grant of £20,000 in the first six, plus guaranteed minimum income of £20,000 in the second six. The system of guaranteed minimum income means that pupils keep what they earn, but if their income falls below a certain level in any month, chambers will make up the shortfall. We hope that this step will encourage applicants to 6KBW College Hill from the widest possible range of backgrounds.

Applications for 2017 pupillage at 6KBW open in the spring.